9: Wonderlands

30 Mar

Katherine Thomson has created a powerful and moving play based on the subject of Native Title.  Wonderlands was first produced by Hothouse Theatre in 2003 and it’s topical, emotional and filled with pathos.

The play takes place in two different times: present day with a farming family finding out there’s a Native Title claim on the area where their farm lies; and in 1931 when a young woman goes riding with the Aboriginal stockman who works on her farm.

This is a play that’s dense with text and with story. It has overtones of McLeod’s Daughters, possibly  because of the farm setting and feisty women, but maybe also because of the operatic scope of the story. The Aboriginal characters might be a touch too saintly, the current pastoralists a bit too ham fisted and conniving, but it still works because the story is such an epic one.

Land rights, settlement, dispossession, stolen generations, mental illness and belonging all play a part in Wonderlands.

open book

Reading Wonderland. Photo of Pauline Wyman playing Edie.

Lon, the ailing farmer who won’t contemplate any Native Title on his land, says:

LON: You lost the first day people came up here. It was survival of the fittest and you lost. And we survived here. And it kills you. Your families are wrecks and your men bash you senseless and your livers are shot with the drink and you churn out the same old rubbish that the land talks to you or something. Well, you now what we all feel like saying if only we had the guts? Change the record, it’s boring us all to tears.

Later he describes his connection to the land as:

LON: My boots aren’t on the soil, they’re of the soil. Like those clouds scudding across that huge, awesome sky, that country scuds through my veins. Pulsing like a bass guitar.

This is what Thomson does so well. Although Lon is in many ways the villain of the piece, he’s also just a frightened man, protecting the farm he loves for his family. The tragedy is how much he destroys in his effort to preserve the status quo, losing what he loves in the process.

Publisher: Currency Press

Cast: 3M, 3F

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